Jerez, Thursday: With rallying superstar Sebastien Loeb recently testing for Red Bull, and more rumours circulating that MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi will once again take to the wheel of a Ferrari, fresh speculation has arisen that other top sportsmen – from disciplines far removed from F1 – will also try their hand at the pinnacle of motorsport in the coming weeks.
With mid-season testing banned from 2009 onwards, Formula One teams only have a matter of weeks to generate publicity by allowing someone famous to trundle around a racetrack, and it has been suggested that a number of teams will be taking up this option before the season proper kicks off in Melbourne in March.
One name being mentioned in F1 circles a lot this week is darts legend Phil Taylor, who has been linked with F1 test drives for some years now. Before the team folded at the beginning of 2003, it was continually rumoured that Phil would be allowed to test an Arrows car in order to draw attention to the team and help pay off some of its massive debts. “Frankly, the pun was too good to resist,” one Arrows insider had said at the time. Now Phil is being linked with a test for McLaren, who are rumoured to be going over their 1995 monocoque designs in order to find a way of shoehorning the, um, well-proportioned darts player into one of their cockpits.
Also being considered for F1 tests in the future is British Olympic hero and cyclist Chris Hoy (who we are now required to pretentiously refer to as “Sir Chris”), although it is being reported that his particular talent for going round in circles a lot may be more suited to a drive in NASCAR. And reports have surfaced linking tennis star Andy Murray to a test with Williams, although it is expected that negotiations with Murray will reach a late stage before collapsing spectacularly.